Twisck, Pieter Jansz (1565-1636)

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Pieter Jansz Twisck, born 1565 at Hoorn, died there 1 October 1636, a Dutch Mennonite elder and prolific author, who lived at Hoorn in the Dutch province of North Holland, where he had a dry goods shop from about 1605 until his death. The belief that he received his family name from Twisk, a town not far from Hoorn, is not correct; the name is derived from a sign on his shop picturing the village of Twisk. Until ca. 1609 he called himself simply Pieter Jansz; thereafter he regularly added the name Twisck.

Twisck became a preacher of the Old (or Hard) Frisian Mennonite church at Hoorn in 1592 and soon after an elder. He was a conservative Mennonite; against the Waterlander leader Hans de Ries, who was more liberal in his views, he emphatically defended the doctrine of Incarnation of Christ as taught by Menno Simons and Dirk Philips. In 1615 de Ries published at Haarlem the Historie der Martelaren, with a preface in which he summoned the Dutch Mennonites, divided by schisms, to reunite. Twisck published a second edition of this book, now entitled Historie der Warachtighe Getuygen Jesu Christi (Hoorn, 1617), in which he omitted the preface by de Ries but added a confession of faith. Soon after this Twisck and his Old Frisians discovered that de Ries (intentionally, they thought) had omitted the views of the martyrs on the Incarnation, thus falsifying the history of the martyrs. To correct this, Twisck re-edited the martyr book, and thus Historie van de Vrome Getuygen Jesu Christi (Hoorn, 1626) appeared. (A new enlarged edition of the 1615 edition by de Ries appeared under the title Martelaers-Spiegel der Werelose Christenen at Haarlem, 1631.) For his corrections in the Historie van de Vrome Getuygen Twisck was severely attacked by the Waterlander preacher Hans Alenson in Tegen-Bericht (Haarlem, 1630).

Twisck as a strict Old Frisian unabatingly maintained the practice of banning, opposed marriage outside the church, and held the view that the other Mennonite groups did not have a good understanding of the church and its basic doctrines. Thus he looked askance at the endeavors for union and merger heard in his day. He declined the invitations of Hans de Ries and the Waterlander leaders in 1604-1607, and that of the Flemish brethren of Amsterdam in 1626 (see Olijftacxken). In a meeting of different branches of the Dutch Mennonites held at Zaandam 13-15 November 1628, Twisck uttered his grievances against the intended merger and on 27 January 1629, the definite refusal of several Old Frisian churches was sent to the Flemish at Amsterdam. A debate held at Hoorn on 13 April 1622, between Twisck and Jan Luies the strong leader of the strictest Flemish, whose standpoint did not much differ from that of Twisck, had no success either.

Twisck was very active as elder. He regularly visited the congregations in North Holland and may have been the founder of the Old Frisian conference in this area. (See Noordholland, Vriesche Doopsgezinde Sociëteit in.) He also visited the Mennonites elsewhere; before 1620 he was in Holstein and Eiderstedt, and also stayed at Hamburg where there was a Frisian congregation which held the same doctrines as Twisck. His followers in Hamburg and elsewhere were commonly called the Jan-Pietersz-Twisckvolk, or the Twiscken.

Twisck was a man of little education. He knew no foreign language except a little German. Nevertheless he was a well-read man, who wrote many books. Herman Schijn (Geschiedenis II) gives a long list of some 26 titles by him, and there were a few more. Some of Twisck's writings were circulated in manuscript copies during his lifetime; a few of these tracts were printed later. His grandson Pieter Jansz Twisck edited some of them.

The most important writings of Twisck are (a) his Confession of Faith of 1617. Twisck himself later denied that he was the author of this confession "first placed before the great martyrs book," claiming that it was drawn up by his co-preacher of Hoorn, Syvaert Pietersz. Yet we may assume that Twisck had the major part in this confession, which is composed of sentences borrowed from the works of Menno Simons, (b) Concordantie der Heyligher Schrifturen (Leiden, 1614; Haarlem, 1648) and a sequel to this work, Bybelsch Naem en Chronyk-boeck (Hoorn, 1632). (c) Chroniik van den Ondergangh der Tyrannen, Ende de Jaerlijcksche Geschiedenissen in Weereltlijcke ende Kercklijcke Saecken, 2 vv. (Hoorn, 1617 and 1620). This large book was very popular and much read, also by non-Mennonites. It is a kind of general history, for the first part is largely borrowed from the Chronica by Sebastian Franck and from many other books, giving a treasury of historical information, including Mennonite history.

Further publications are: Een Schriftelijck Tracktaet oft Verhandelinghe van Twist (1604, n.p.; repr. 1626); Andtwoort ende Wederlegginge . . . op een vrage by Hans de Rijs; this was written in 1607 and circulated in manuscript copies, but not published until 1614. It appeared at Hoorn with the title Een corte ghestelijcke verclaringhe van den hoge Priester Aaron (Hoorn, 1608), and a reprint entitled Aarons Priesterdom (Hoorn, 1627); Religions Vryheyt, 2 vv. (Hoorn, 1609); Schriftuerelijcke Vereeniginge (Hoorn, 1661), which was written by 1613; Namen ofte Benamingen Christi (Hoorn, 1615); Een corte Beschrijvinge van 80. Pausen (Hoorn, 1616; repr. 1654); Corte Vertooninghe van den teghen woordighen Staet des Aertbodems (Leiden, 1623, some reprints); Een Vaderlijck Geschenk (Hoorn, 1623; repr.? and ibid., 1646, 1668, 1742); Ontdeckinge des Pausdoms (Hoorn, 1624; Haarlem, 1646); Een lieffelijcke Meditatie . . . op den 85. Psalm (Hoorn, 1624); Comeet-Boecxken (Hoorn, 1624; ibid., 1665); Rantsoen Christi (Hoorn, 1624); Corte Verdedigingh (Hoorn, 1626; Haarlem, 1646); Schriftuurlijcke Disputacie aengaende het wesen en de godheyt Christi tusschen S. D. Montanus en (date of writing unknown: first ed. as far as known at Danzig, 1650); Pascha of Paeschlam (Hoorn, 1627); Rijckdom ende Armoede (Amsterdam, 1627); Troost-Brief der Weduwen (ed. of 1626, at ?; Hoorn, 1630; idem, 1636); Oorloghs-Verstooninghe, ofte Teghen die Krijch en voor de Vrede (Hoorn, 1631; probably a first edition 1611); Catechismus (Haarlem, 1633); Van de Peste (. . . 1636; Hoorn, 1636; ibid., 1637); Tegen de Pausselijcke Successie (Hoorn, 1636); Kort en Grondigh Bericht van den Val Adams (Hoorn, 1638); Tractaet van den Houwelijcken Staet (Hoorn, 1682); Verscheyde Artikulen des Geloofs (Hoorn, 1694; Franeker, 1700).

Twisck also composed a number of hymns, which like his early tracts usually were signed with the device "Na(e) Beter." The following hymnals, some of which were used in the Old Frisian congregations, were published by Twisck: Eenege Meditations Liedekens . . . genomen wt den XXV. LXXXV. en LXXXVI. Psalm . . . (n.p., 1603); Kleyn-Liedtboecxken (Hoorn, 1633; repr. ibid., 1640; containing 183 hymns); Fondament oft De Principaelste Liedekens . . . (Haarlem, 1633) which was added to his Catechismus. One of his tracts, which was probably never printed in Dutch, or of which the Dutch copies have been lost, still exists in a German translation, Das Friedensreich Christi oder Auslegung des 20. Capitels in Offenbarung St. Johannis (Odessa, 1875; repr. Elkhart, 1888 and 1915); and an English, The Peaceful Kingdom of Christ (Elkhart, 1913; n.p., 1940).

Twisck diligently studied the works of Menno Simons and Dirk Philips and was in sympathy with them; the influence of this study is found in many of his writings, particularly in his Confession of Faith and in his Catechism. Menno's autobiography on "Wtgangh ofte Bekeeringhe" (leaving or conversion) was inserted by Twisck in his Chroniik van den Ondergangh der Tyrannen (II, 1067-73). Twisck was well instructed about Menno Simons, for Menno's daughter "more than once" told him personally about her father and how he died. She told him that Menno died "anno 1559, aged 66" (II, 1075); on the same page (also II, 1201) he mentions that, according to another tradition, Menno died on 13 January 1561. These variant dates led historiography astray and for nearly three centuries it was generally accepted that 1559 was the death year of Menno Simons, until Karel Vos proved that it was probably 1561. Menno's letter to the widows, the original of which is now found in the Amsterdam Mennonite Archives, was published by Twisck in his Troost-Brief der Weduwen (1626). Of special interest for Mennonite history are the insertions which Twisck and his co-workers made in the martyr book Historie der Warachtighe Getuygen, of 1617, adding from the official records (Sententieboeken), chronicles, and hymnals a number of accounts on martyrs, among which was the striking history of Dirk Willems van Asperen.


Cramer, Samuel and Fredrik Pijper. Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1903-1914: v. VII, 144, 155 ff., 213-18, 234 ff., 242, 251, 259.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1864): 42 ff., 54 ff., 125, 127; (1865): 68, 119; (1867): 71; (1870): 69, 72 ff.; (1872): 53, 94; 1876, 38 note; (1881): 34 ff.; (1882): 41; (1887): 99; (1889): 76; (1892): 26; (1893): 11; (1899): 98 ff., 144, 158.

Doopsgezind Jaarboekje (1837): 96, 97.

Friedmann, Robert. Mennonite Piety Through the Centuries. Goshen, 1945: 262 ff.

Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: v. I, Nos. 501-9, 521, 558-1, 566, 568, 570, 617; v. II, No. 83.

Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden in Nederland II. 1600-1735 Eerste Helft. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon n.v., 1940: 107-14, 128 ff., 134, 142, 191 ff.

Schijn, Hermann. Uitvoeriger Verhandeling van de Geschiedenisse der Mennoniten. Amsterdam: Kornelis de Wit, 1744: 516-34.

Vos, Karel. Menno Simons, 1496-1561, zijn leven en werken en zijne reformatorische denkbeelden. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1914: 4, 43 note 1, 68, 111, 164, 186 note 1.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

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MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Twisck, Pieter Jansz (1565-1636)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 27 Feb 2024.,_Pieter_Jansz_(1565-1636)&oldid=130470.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1959). Twisck, Pieter Jansz (1565-1636). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 February 2024, from,_Pieter_Jansz_(1565-1636)&oldid=130470.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 757-759. All rights reserved.

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